Life is Wild Where the Wildlife Roam
Photos by Donald M. Jones/Great Gray Imagery
Fish illustration by Ward Tollbom
By Billie Jean Plaster
For North Idahoans, wildlife is part of our experience living here. Encountering wildlife provided fond childhood memories for me, and some not so fond. The latter would be when I lived on Gold Creek at age 10.
It was late spring, and I was riding Freckles, my spirited Arabian mare, home from the bus stop (yes, I really did ride a horse to and from the bus stop). Freckles started to become wary as we approached a crossroads. She would stop; I would urge her on, and she would proceed again, hesitantly, with her ears pricked up and her nostrils flaring. I was becoming wary, too, and tightened my grip on the tuft of her mane. I was riding bareback without tack, and it was the only thing I had to hold on to.
As we came closer to the Y in the winding dirt road, we spotted a huge bear standing on its hind legs. I got no more than a glimpse, because Freckles whirled around and sped back in the direction we had come, as fast as her legs would take us.
Somewhere down the road, I coaxed her to turn around. A half hour later, we cautiously approached the same area, and in the spring mud found tracks of one big bear, claw marks still visible in the oozing soil.
I can't tell you if it was a black bear or a grizzly. I don't think I knew the difference at that age. But it was big, and grizzly bears did live in the Cabinet Mountains then as they do today, although there are surely fewer of them now.
About four years after that incident, I was taking a friend for a walk near our cabin on Gold Creek. As we entered a meadow, Cathy pointed to the beaver pond across the field.
"Look, there's someone's horse."
"That's not a horse, Cathy," I said. "That's a moose!"
That may have been Cathy's first moose sighting, but I was used to seeing these awkward-looking behemoths feeding in the beaver ponds that dot the woods around Gold Creek.
I've enjoyed spotting everything from elk to mountain goats to great blue herons in this beautiful place we are privileged to call home. There's a wholesome goodness about living in a region so wild and unspoiled that it provides habitat for woodland caribou and grizzly bears, as well as more abundant and common wild animals.
In this issue of Sandpoint Magazine, we bring special attention to our fellow residents -- the wild creatures -- that share this good land; including what to see and where to see them.
This summer, seek out wildlife, whether you're driving on Highway 200 along Lake Pend Oreille or hiking 20 miles up Pack River in the Selkirk Mountains. If you feel like getting involved in wildlife conservation, we've included a list of active groups in the area. The photographs in this issue, from the awe-inspring grizzly on the cover to the inside shots of caribou and heron are great fun to browse, but, as I can attest, it doesn't compare to the thrill of seeing the real thing in the wild.